About Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

LCA is a systematic mapping and assessment of environmental and resource impacts throughout the whole life cycle of a product or a product system, from the extraction of raw materials, through materials processing, use and disposal or recycling at the end of the product's life (from "cradle to grave" or “cradle to cradle”). It is not only the materials in the product or product system that is investigated, but all materials and energy sources used for production, transport, and maintenance. Through conducting an LCA of a product you get information about what environmental problems are the most important ones and where in the life cycle these arise. The results are used for product development, green purchasing decisions, and policy development, for instance when choosing among alternative products or waste management systems. LCA is connected to development and documentation for a low-emission society and a circular economy.

Results from an LCA can be expressed through an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which presents a product’s environmental characteristics in a standardised way. EPD is especially demanded in the construction sector, as a requirement in purchasing processes, but is increasingly demanded also in other sectors.
 
Besides the more traditional environmental LCAs, methods have been developed to also include social and economic aspects in LCA. These are called S-LCA (Social Life Cycle Assessment) and LCC (Life Cycle Costing). When combined, this integrated LCA approach is called Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA). LCSA includes all the three dimensions of sustainability in one assessment approach.

LCA has four steps that normally all are included in LCA projects: goal and scope, inventory analysis, impact assessment and interpretation. See more about these steps here: https://norsus.no/de-ulike-trinnene-i-lca-og-hvordan-norsus-jobber-med-disse/.

LCAs are essential for development of sustainable products and services, and an important part of the knowledge base for industrial and societal development where there are requirements for environmental and resource use improvement. Life Cycle Management is conducted when LCA and life cycle thinking is used in the strategy and R&D development processes of enterprises.

See our short film on LCA (English version is here).

Listen to our senior researcher Hanne Lerche Raadal explaining the principles of LCA in podkasten Energi og Klima.  

In the podcast we explain 

  • how LCA is used to document environmental footprint 
  • why this is important 
  • how companies can request environmental documentation 
  • whether emission quotas influence life cycle assessments 
  • how you can use Guarantee of Origin (GoO) in environmental documentation